Koreans can now enjoy the taste of Singaporean celebrity chef Justin Quek’s flagship restaurant Justin Flavours of Asia at the basement food court of Lotte Department Store’s Myeong-dong branch in Sogong-dong, Seoul.
Catering to a wide range of visitors from nearby Myeong-dong’s busy office workers, tourists hungry and tired from shopping at downtown Seoul's largest shopping block as well as Singaporeans craving food from home, Justin Flavours of Asia opened in Seoul on Dec. 3.
Especially after chef Quek’s Flavours of Asia located at Singapore’s posh Marina Bay Sands resort closed early this year, his Seoul restaurant can be a good opportunity for those who want to try a variety of iconic Singaporean dishes including laksa, satay and fish curry.
Justin Flavours of Asia promotes laksa as its signature menu, noodles in a rich, spicy coconut-base broth topped with pieces of chicken and prawn. A dish that is still relatively new to most Koreans, the broth was not spicy at all. Considering Koreans’ love for spicy food such as Buldak spicy ramyeon -- the spiciness of laksa was not even close to that of kimchi. The best part of the laksa was that the broth went very well with crunchy mung-bean sprouts that were put on top of the noodles, a good combination with a rich coconut broth. I wished the laksa was a bit spicier. Some chili oil would also have been nice for an extra kick.
A plate of chicken satay came with homemade peanut sauce, pieces of cucumber and onions. The seasoned, skewered chicken satay went well with the homemade peanut sauce, which upgraded the taste of barbecued meat that carried a strong, smoky scent from a charcoal fire. But the plate was missing a side of ketupat, a Javanese rice cake formed into a bite-sized cube, which is served with main dishes in countries like Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and southern Thailand.
The Singaporean fish curry came with a variety of veggie toppings -- tomatoes, eggplant, okra, chilly and cilantro. Four to five big fish filet chunks were put inside this fish curry, but the curry paste itself wasn’t particularly distinctive from other kinds of curries. But it was worth a try because Koreans normally go for chicken or pork curry when cooking at home and when eating outside, they are familiar with beef curry made in Japanese style.
Jean Low, a Singaporean student in her 20s who was on a nine-day trip to Seoul with her family members, said the food at Justin Flavours of Asia in Seoul was authentic and the ingredients seemed to be very Singaporean.
“We are on our sixth day so we have been craving some local food. The food is nice and the price is also reasonable (compared to the price in Singapore.) I think (chef Quek’s restaurant opening in Seoul) can motivate more (Singaporean) shops to open here, I think it’s a good move, giving more options to tourists and locals,” Low told The Korea Herald.
Considering that many Koreans visit Singapore, and vice-versa, in recent years, having an opportunity to enjoy authentic Singaporean food in bustling Myeong-dong can be a good strategy, she added.
Justin Flavours of Asia is open every day from 10:30 a.m. until 8 p.m.
From the hippest Korean eateries to global restaurant’s Seoul branch, The Korea Herald tries out new dining spots. The Korea Herald pays for all visits. - Ed.